Last edited: January 23, 2005

Canada’s Catholic Leaders Crusade Against Gay Marriage

Prime Minister Vows He’ll Fight t Sanction Same-Sex Unions

Mercury News, January 23, 2005

By Beth Duff-Brown, Associated Press

TORONTO—As gay-rights activists head to Ottawa for the final stage in their long battle to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Roman Catholic clergy are crossing the line that separates church and state to demand that legislators defeat the proposition.

They have pledged to bring the debate to their pulpits today and have called on Prime Minister Paul Martin to consider the moral consequences of allowing same-sex unions nationwide. Gays can marry already in seven provinces—including Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—and the Yukon territory.

Across the globe in China on a trade mission, Martin said he would stake his leadership on defending the right of gay couples to wed under Canada’s Charter of Rights, the country’s 1982 counterpart to the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The debate is being closely watched south of the border, as gay marriage is opposed by a majority of Americans, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken in November, shortly after constitutional amendments in 11 states to ban same-sex marriage were approved.

Canada’s Constitution, like America’s, separates the powers of church and state, though it acknowledges that Canada is founded ``under the supremacy of God.”

The battle begins in earnest Jan. 31, when the House of Commons reconvenes and will consider a bill put forward by Martin’s government.

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in early December that gay marriage was constitutional, in a landmark opinion that allows the federal government to call on Parliament to legalize gay unions nationwide. If approved by a majority of the House, Canada would become the third country to embrace gay marriage, along with Belgium and the Netherlands.

In its Dec. 9 ruling, the court emphasized that religious officials cannot be forced to perform unions against their beliefs.

``Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good,” Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry wrote to his diocese.

Conservative Opposition Leader Stephen Harper said the traditional definition of marriage between a man and woman should be enshrined in law or Canada could be faced with more radical demands.

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Toronto, has called on Martin to invoke the so-called notwithstanding clause of the charter, which would give Canada up to five years to study the impact of gay marriage on society in Belgium and the Netherlands.

But Alex Munter, a gay-rights activist, said he believes that the bill will become law this year.

``The law that protects religious freedom is the same law that protects lesbians and gays from discrimination—the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You can’t switch it on and off,” said Munter, national coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage.

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